Patron Spotlight: Justin Sampson

When Justin Sampson lost his job in fall 2022, he began contemplating a career change and visited a local job center to explore potential career paths. One opportunity in particular piqued his interest: drone pilot.

He dug in to learn more about the emerging field–which, he discovered, could be utilized in everything from package delivery to survey work to real estate.

Sampson scraped together the money to attend a day-long drone introduction class, and learned of another course that would prepare students to become FAA-certified drone pilots. It cost several hundred dollars though, and Sampson was already on a tight budget. He wondered if he could study for the certification test on his own…with help from OPL.

Enter Colby Jenkins, senior clerk at Benson Branch. The two had developed a rapport during Sampson’s frequent visits to his neighborhood branch and together, they began brainstorming. Jenkins located an official drone pilot study guide at a community college in Kentucky which Sampson could borrow via OPL’s Interlibrary Loan service.

Sampson spent an estimated 20–40 hours preparing for the test–often simultaneously watching videos on LinkedIn Learning (available through OPL’s online Resource Center) while poring over the study guide, which was filled with technical language and complicated aeronautical charts.

“When I first went through it, I was completely dumbfounded,” said Sampson. “I had to really study and learn.” Slowly, he gained confidence and understanding, and found himself enjoying the process. “It was nice to be challenged again, mentally,” he said. “I came out of it feeling very refreshed.”

In November, Sampson took the 80-question test, and passed with flying colors! He also landed a bartending job, which helped him save to purchase a drone.

Now, Sampson is picking up small drone jobs while continuing to use LinkedIn Learning videos to improve his piloting and photography skills. He hopes to eventually transition this into full-time work, and credits the library with helping him launch his new career.

“It’s been beyond valuable. I literally wouldn’t have been able to have taken that class and pay my rent at the same time,” said Sampson. “The library gave me the power to educate myself and move myself forward...It’s been hugely beneficial in my life.”